In the last centuries BC the script was divided into 3 varieties: northern, eastern, and southern. Dialectal differences consisted of the shape of the symbols, though the system remained the same. First separate branches emerged in the 5th century AD. The Brahmi script is the ancestor of all modern Indian writing systems, there are about 40 varieties of them nowadays, including Tibetan, Sinhalese, Sharada, Newari, Bengali, Oriya, Gujarati,Gurmukhi, , Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Burmese, Khmer, Lao, Thai, Devanagari. In addition, many other Asian scripts, even Japanese to a very small extent (vowel order), were also derived from Indian script. Languages which used Brahmi as their script: Indo-Aryan (Vedic, Sanskrit, Prakrits, Pali), Dravidian, Iranian (Sacian), Tocharic.
Brahmi origin has been controversial. one of the reason is the sudden appearance of fully developed script in the inscriptions during Ashokan period and l absence of inscriptions between Indus valley and Ashokan period(gap of 1500 years). Opinions of Brahmi is divided to into two camps Foreign origin by Foreigners and Indigenous independent development by Indians. Let us see the opinions behind claims.
Foreign origin or derived script theory is based on the following theories
- Failure to find and identify actual specimens of between indus valley and pre-Ashokan writing.
- The testimony of Greek author Megasthenes to the absence of writing in India in the early Mauryan period
- The evident influence of Indian phonetic and grammatical theory on the structure of the early scripts
- Uniform appearance of Ashokan Brâhmî all over India.
It is thought that the brāhmī drift of a Semitic writing like the imperial Aramean alphabet, as it is the case for the alphabet gāndhārī(khartoshi) which appeared at the same time in Northwest India, under the control of the empire of the Achéménides. Rhys Davids thinks that this writing could be introduced in India of the the Middle East by the merchants.The similarities between the scripts are just what one would expect from such an adaptation. For example, Aramaic did not distinguish dental from retroflex stops; in Brāhmī the dental and retroflex series are graphically very similar, as if both had been derived from a single prototype. Aramaic did not have Brāhmī’s aspirated consonants (k, t), whereas Brāhmī did not have Aramaic's emphatic consonants (q, ṭ, ṣ); and it appears that these emphatic letters were used for Brāhmī's aspirates: Aramaic q for Brāhmī kh, Aramaic (Θ) for Brāhmī th (ʘ). And just where Aramaic did not have a corresponding emphatic stop, p, Brāhmī seems to have doubled up for its aspirate: Brāhmī p and ph are graphically very similar, as if taken from the same source in Aramaic p. The first letters of the alphabets also match: Brāhmī a, which resembled a reversed κ, looks a lot like Aramaic alef, which resembled Hebrew .
Southern Semitic origin.
Brahmi is a syllabary, it consists of syllables only, if we state that single vowels are also syllables. Each character carries a consonant followed by the vowel "a", much like Old Persian or Meroïtic. However, unlike these two systems, Brahmi indicates the same consonant with a different vowel with extra strokes attached to the character. Brahmi is written from the left to the right. However in few coins right to left Brahmi is also found.
Phoenician origin is based on the following points.
- Writing from left to right unlike aramic which is right to left.
- Striking similarity between theta and Brâhmî tha
Greek and Brahmi
That the basic system of indication of post-consonantal vowels by diacritic marking was originally developed in and adapted from Khartoshi seems well established. But Falk's suggestion that the introduction into Brâhmî of distinct diacritics for short and long vowels was influenced by the model of Greek script is doubtful, since the notation of vowel quantity in Greek operates on entirely different principles. Whereas Greek uses distinct alphabetic characters, mostly derived from Semitic consonants, to represent, incompletely and inconsistently, short and long vowel pairs, Brâhmî has a complete and regular set of matched short/long pairs of post-consonantal diacritic signs.
Numerical notation system of Brâhmî. Because the use of distinct signs in Brâhmî for each of the digits (1 to 9) and the decades (10 to 90) a similar system used in early Chinese numerals. Also not only in system but also in the actual form of several of the numerical signs, between Brâhmî and heiratic and demotic Egyptian. we dont know which side influenced the other or Independent.
script appeared in India most certainly by the 6th century BC, but the fact it had many local variants, which suggests that its origin lies further back in time. The earliest inscription written in Brahmi date back to the 6th century BC in srilanka, and by 2nd century BC already there existed several varieties of it. Brahmi quickly became the official script of religious texts and cults, and therefore spread over all India.
Writting in Pre Ashokan Era
- J.D.M. Derrett argues Megasthanese talks only about written Legal document not generally writting in India.
- Nearchos, quoted by Strabo, to the Indians' practice of writing letters on cloth
- Panini mentions Lipi (Writting)
- Pali cannon makes reference to likhitako coro,lekha.m chindati (writting) in Vinaya-pi.taka
Harry Falks believes as for him that the brāhmī was created under the Empire maurya. One often admits that it was an invention planned under the reign of Ashoka, necessary to the drafting of his edicts, case similar to that of the Hangul(Korean).
Brahmi script came from the Indus Valley Script. However, the lack of any inscription evidence between the end of the Harappan period at around 1900 BC and the first Brahmi and Kharosthi inscriptions at roughtly 500 BC makes the Indus origin of Brahmi highly questionable. However recent claims of deciphering the Indus script has strengthened this theory. Indus script have been found around 1500BC in Vaishai, bihar. And the theory derives the evidence from similarities as other theories. You can see in the picture .
Now the theory by western scholars is Khartoshi predated Brahmi and it was loose adoptation of Aramic. Khartoshi from Aramic is also not a good argument simply because several cases Khartoshi characters have different phonetic values from the Aramaic letters that they most closely resemble in shape. wide usage of Aramaicin the Ashokan Aramaic inscriptions, in the eastern regions of the Achaemenian empire.another theory is Brahmi is derived from Khartoshi. But this can be disproved on following points. Brâhmî ¤ ha , which can reasonably be derived from an Aramaic * he , but hardly from Khartoshi * ha , and * ta from Aramaic * taw ,
but not Khartoshi ¤ ta
We have to see that each theory putsforward the similarities and keeps silence on the other points. Brahmi is superior script all the others compared. And there is no easier explanation for the development of same.
Was Ancient India Literate
Indus Script Myths
Pallava Granta Script